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Ahead of the NATO summit in Chicago, Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski harshly criticised the Alliance for nurturing what he described as double standards and selective respect of international law when it comes to country's accession.
Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski | Photo by: vlada.mk
As the two-day NATO summit got underway in Chicago on Sunday, top NATO officials had indicated that Macedonia's application for membership would not be on the agenda due to the unresolved name dispute with Greece, a NATO member state.
In an interview for the state MIA news agency published on Sunday, just before the start of the summit, Gruevski accused Greece of committing a “crime” against the Macedonian people by blocking the country's Euro-Atlantic accession, despite a clear ruling by the International Court of Justice, ICJ, at The Hague that the Greek position violates an earlier agreement.
Gruevski said NATO’s conduct towards Macedonia has been “utterly unprincipled and unjust” and he accused the alliance of using Macedonia when it serves NATO's purpose and otherwise ignoring it.
“Macedonia is always invited when needed, as a logistics base in the case of the 1999 campaign in Serbia, or when they needed our presence in Afghanistan, Iraq and other places where allies were required. Then they require our army, our presence, our flag, our determination,” Gruevski said.
Gruevski stressed that he was not referring to all NATO member states, “since there are a lot of countries, politicians and diplomats in NATO who openly, sincerely and publicly support us”.
When asked why he is not attending the Chicago Summit, he said that “taking into account the circumstances, when a country is subjected to injustice, lack of principle and double-standard policy” Macedonia is over represented as it is.
Macedonia is being represented at the two-day summit by President Gjorge Ivanov and Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki.
“Personally, if I were the President, I would not go, and I am not sure if the [foreign affairs] minister should be there either,” Gruevski said.
In 2008 Greece blocked Macedonia’s accession at the Bucharest NATO Summit, arguing that its neighbour’s use of the name “Macedonia” implies a territorial claim to Greece's northern province of the same name. Since then, NATO has insisted that the dispute must be resolved before Macedonia can be invited to join.
Last December, the ICJ ruled that when it blocked Macedonia’s attempt to join NATO Greece had breached an interim deal brokered by the UN in 1995. However, the court did not directly order Greece to end its blockade, as Macedonia had requested.
NATO immediately made it clear that the ruling would not alter its policy towards Macedonia.
“If the situation were the opposite, for example, if Greece did not meet its commitments resulting from an ICJ judgment towards America, Germany or France, it would have been faced with UN Security Council sanctions,” Gruevski said.
Gruevski denied that some of his own initiatives, including the setting up of a giant statue of Alexander the Great in central Skopje, have irritated Greek sentiment.
“If we irritate them, what word can be used for the things they are doing to us?” he said. “There is no greater irritation than 20 years of blocking, denial, underestimation, financial damage to the people and the country, even tension. This is not irritation, but a crime against a nation and a state.”
Announcing Macedonia’s next steps Gruevski said his government “will continue to act with principle, in a much more European manner compared to certain EU member-states” by resuming reforms and continuing to search for a solution to the name dispute.
We will “wait for our historic chance, and we will use it,” he said.
Macedonia and Greece are engaged in long-standing UN-led talks designed to resolve the dispute. However, no progress has been made for more than a year and the small number of meetings that have taken place in this period have not involved substantial talks.
Asked whether he is still prepared to compromise over the name dispute Gruevski replied “Absolutely. I will continue to work hard on this”.
Macedonia’s ruling parties have drawn up declaration for parliament, urging NATO to keep the door open for the country's membership.
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